Organic sculptures by Steve Tobin at Houston Botanic Garden

Organic sculptures by Steve Tobin at Houston Botanic Garden

February 22, 2023

When I fled to Houston during Austin’s ice storm aftermath older this February, I made a visit with family to Houston Botanic Garden. Plane in Zone 9 Houston, winter had not spared palms, grasses, and many other plants. Still, an art walkout by Steve Tobin tabbed Intertwined: Exploring Nature’s Networks, plus the garden’s subtle winter beauty, made for a pleasant stroll.


Tobin’s Clouds series was my favorite of the exhibit. Lumpy mirrored steel capsules on plinths bladder over tawny grasses, reflecting the undecorous sky and silky clouds.

Viewed head-on, this one takes on anthropomorphic qualities. I see a prone human figure, its throne in the foreground, lying in the grass and gazing up at the sky.

Dry garden

While we’re in the dry garden, let’s take a moment to fathom grasses in their tawny winter hue, with antler-like cholla beyond.

Golden whisk cacti subtracting a little winter color

Wheeler’s sotol, Yucca rostrata, prickly pear, and big undecorous agaves perched like mermaids on rocks — a surprising value of desert garden goodness in swampy Houston!

Some of the prickly pears have tabular from that unprepossessed spell in December, but they’ll be OK. The freeze-browned palms? I’m not sure well-nigh those, but hope so.

Lots of woolly round plants

One increasingly salute to the Wheeler’s sotol

An oval pond, with sad palms

Bronze Roots

One of Steve Tobin’s Bronze Roots sculptures adds tentacley vibes to the dry garden.

Another one makes a rooty focal point in the culinary garden. It’s underplanted with minty Aztec grass (or variegated liriope) and red-flowering bromeliads for a verisimilitude echo.

Culinary garden

The culinary garden’s mint-green water wall, with water-loving papyrus growing at the base

Along the when of the wall, painted putty-pink, fruit trees are espaliered on a bamboo grid. In the raised beds, lettuces squint ready to be turned into salads.


A monumental Steelroots, flipside of Tobin’s sculptures, appears to flit on the lawn at the end of an entry path.

Shade arcade

It wasn’t particularly hot on this early February day, but I unchangingly enjoy the Space Age diamond of the long shade arcade. Planted pockets untried up the linty stone wall.

Ming fern and ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia make a textural pairing.

One increasingly view

Butterfly vine shows off its butterfly-shaped seedpods.


In the garden, a Nest sculpture by Tobin has a gazing-globe quality, making for a fun selfie.


Tobin’s Twisties adds colorful, upright squiggles to an unshut lawn. The black-stained structure is a hands-on, exploratory place for children tabbed a marvel cabinet.

Curiosity cabinet

Inside, cut grasses, trailing plants, and shells offer a tactile nature wits for kids.

In flipside cabinet we found unprepossessing bones, antlers, and plane a tiny framed bat.

Lots of interesting items to pick up and examine


Tobin’s Syntax sculpture — thousands of metal reports encrusted into a vortexing orb — unprotected my eye.

The verdigris reports towards to whorl into the vortex.

What is it trying to say — or spell out?

What an interesting soul of work! Steve Tobin’s Intertwined exhibit at Houston Botanic Garden runs through August 13th.

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Digging Deeper

Come learn well-nigh garden diamond from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.

Make plans to shepherd the Budding Out Plant Sale & Festival on March 18 at the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead, TX. Rare and distinctive plants will be offered, as well as art, ceramics, jewelry, food, drink, music, and other entertainment for the whole family. Members have early wangle and get in free. Non-member ticket is $5. Children 12 and under are free.

Experience the Surreal Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden, an enchanting neon-art exhibit throughout the gardens, with supplies and drink, music and dancing, surreal performers, and interactive art sculptures. Surreal costumes encouraged! 25% of event proceeds goody the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy. Runs April 6 (VIP Night), April 7-8, and April 13-15, from 6:30 pm to 11 pm.

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